June 14, 2009
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a thirty-minute foreign policy speech at Bar-Ilan University, Israel’s second largest university. The speech briefly touched on the looming Iranian threat and the global economic crisis. Its main focus, however, was on the Prime Minister’s vision for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Netanyahu’s speech broke from earlier notions of a two-state solution put forth by two of his predecessors, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. Netanyahu offered details for a Palestinian State, and assured that such a state would be completely demilitarized.
Broadcast on national television, the speech was timed to coincide with the evening news. It came ten days after American President Barack Obama gave a major address in Cairo, but was not a response to Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world. Netanyahu personally urged Obama to watch his address.
In the speech, Netanyahu became Israel’s first Prime Minister to frame the architecture for a two-state solution with significant detail, but without speaking specifically about borders or Jerusalem. The five points outlined in the speech were: 1. Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state; 2. the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state; 3. a resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue that does not include a return of refugees to Israel’s pre-1967 borders; 4. The need for Palestinian economic development; and 5. an end of building new Israeli settlements while allowing “natural settlement growth to continue.”
In my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect. Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government. Neither will threaten the security or survival of the other. These two realities – our connection to the land of Israel, and the Palestinian population living within it – have created deep divisions in Israeli society. But the truth is that we have much more that unites us than divides us.
The complete speech is available here.
A video with simultaneous English translation is available here.